Mudcat Designs: Fresh Thoughtful Designs That Are Just Getting Started

Andrew Marshall


There are two kinds of people who wade into a stream: those who cannonball in with no hesitation and those who walk in slowly, testing the waters. Both have their pros and cons, but we can safely say this — those who wade in slowly hit a lot fewer tree stumps. 

Renée Coma of Mudcat Designs is a wader, and uses it to her benefit. Her eventual goal is to design and sell a female-specific pack aimed at curvier hikers. But she didn’t let a lack of previous pack-design experience keep her from launching her company. Instead, she’s cutting her teeth on fanny packs and roll-top stuff sacks, and learning the ins and outs of design, fabric tech, sewing, and entrepreneurship while she’s at it. 

The Pennsylvania native was exposed to outdoor adventure at an early age. After graduating high school, she set out on a north-bound jaunt along the Keystone State’s famously rocky Appalachian Trail section. By college, she was working for the Appalachian Mountain Club. 



“It was just washing dishes and stuff, but living at the base of Mount Washington. And the AT is two steps out your front door. It was a great experience to have as a 19-year-old,” Renée told us. 

“I did a lot crazy stuff there,” she continued with a laugh. 

With so much exposure to AT traffic, it’s no surprise that Renée would develop an interest in gear design. 

“But I was a freshman in college, and I just kind of put it on the back burner,” she said. 

Those delayed daydreams came back in full force when Renée found herself thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2020. Dissatisfied with the fit and ride of a popular ultralight pack, she spent her days on the trail daydreaming about a pack to meet the needs of curvier female ultralighters. After completing the trail, Renée finished her schooling and was shocked to discover that even after a few years down the line, the world of ultralight gear still didn’t meet her needs. And then came a serendipitous injury. 



“I was still kind of shocked to find that there still wasn’t much women's-specific design out there in ultralight space. There's some stuff that's altered for women, but not necessarily created for women in mind,” she shared. “Then I tore a tendon when I was training for a 50K in my senior year of college. And I was like, ‘well, I’m sitting around anyway. So I pulled out this old sewing machine from under the bed and googled. And I’ve been just kind of figuring it out ever since.’”

Taking the Time to Design

Renée saw fanny packs as a perfect way to “figure it out.” She sews her 1.5-liter Wittenburg Fanny Packs out of sturdy ECOPAK EPX200 and tosses in a YKK Aquaguard waterproof zipper and extra-long zipper pulls for good measure. As a final touch, the storage-obsessed designer sews in a plethora of Spandura pockets — one on the front, one on the bottom, and two on the interior. 



“I like to compartmentalize things, and so [pockets are] kind of an extension of my personality,” she noted. 

Of special note is the front pocket design. Check out how it’s connected at the top seam, with openings on either side of the stitching. That’s to keep the pocket from sagging, a common problem with conventional fanny pack front pockets. 

Renée values material choice just as much as design. She’s willing to take weight penalties on her gear in favor of materials that meet her particular needs as a hiker and adventurer. She’s a fan of scrambling and bushwhacking and needs materials that don’t mind being poked by branches and bounced off rocks. 

“A landscape, map, and compass, with minimal help from a GPS. That’s something that really kind of lights me on fire these days. Kind of searching for things that are a little less traveled, maybe not as easy to follow,” she said. 

When she eventually launches her curvy-friendly, female-specific UL pack, she’ll take a similar approach by choosing fabrics like those she used in the Wittenburg, or perhaps Challenge Sailcloth’s UltraGrid. She also has no interest in gossamer-thin cordage that won’t stand up to the vagaries of long-term trail life. 



Another place this design philosophy manifests is in Mudcat’s stuff sacks. Renée sews sturdy polyester boning into the top hems, all the better to roll them down and have them maintain shape. Utility over marginal weight savings, all while remaining ultralight, that’s the name of her game. 

As for her forthcoming pack, Renée’s been prototyping and experimenting. She envisions a frameless pack with removable padding and full, generous hip belts and shoulder straps. And while she’s aiming for a launch in 2025, she’s in no hurry.

“It's not something I want to rush through. That’s something that’s come up…managing the things I have to do wisely so that the work isn't rushed. It's really important to me.” 

We can’t wait to see what she comes up with!




Andrew Marshall tried his hand at documentary filmmaking, dorm-parenting 30 middle schoolers at a boarding school, and professional wedding photography before washing up on the rocky shores of outdoor journalism. Since then, he's written for Blue Ridge Outdoors, BikeRumor! ExplorersWeb, The Inertia, GearJunkie, Backpacking Light, and other web and print outlets. He's won multiple Excellence in Craft awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America in such diverse disciplines as writing, photography, and illustration. A committed dilettante with a tendency to be interested in just about everything, Andrew is also a published poet, a chess player (trail name: "Pawn"), an experienced long-distance backpacker, a mountain biker/bikepacker with a tendency to fly over the handlebars, and an extremely slow trail runner. Based in Western North Carolina, he enjoys hanging out with his two-year-old, eating biscuits and gravy, and checking out way more library books than one person could possibly read in three weeks. You can find more of Andrew's writing and watercolor illustrations here. 



Wittenberg 1.5L Fanny Pack by Mudcat Designs on GGG Garage Grown Gear
Mudcat Designs



1 comment



I just purchased the Mudcat fanny pack and I love it. I wanted a waterproof fanny pack that had different pockets inside and out. It has all the compartments I was looking for. It is comfortable to wear with my backpack hip belt. It is perfect for what I need.

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